Stop White Knighting for Steve Bartman

by Duncan Clair (@duncanclair)

As Kris Bryant charged the weak grounder and threw to Anthony Rizzo for the final out, it meant a lot of things to a lot of people. For Cleveland fans, it was heartbreak, perhaps with a dash of begrudging appreciation for witnessing history. For Cubs fans, it was elation at arriving to an unimaginable place, halting a drought of unfathomable length. Many people loved this team for a lifetime and perished before the Cubs made good on the promise every team makes to its fans: that they will experience glory.  For many people who sat at arms-length from being an arms-length from this series, one man came to mind.

“Bartman is forgiven”

“Bartman is free”

“Bartman can come home again”

“Redemption for Bartman”

And so on…

These sentiments are awful, and they can fuck off.

Let alone that immediately rushing to publicly bless this man’s access to anonymity is counter intuitive by nature, it’s total bullshit, because Steve Bartman owes nothing to anyone, least of all the passion and community that betrayed him.

Bartman’s treatment was not a dark exception in the pandemonium of a playoff run. There was no sober second thought the morning after at the vilification of a man – a customer – who did nothing wrong. Instead Bartman’s unwitting place in Cubs history was long ago cemented, perpetuated, and made to be a spectacle. It was quite literally capitalized on. This is the man we are imploring the Cubs to “forgive.”

It’s as unsettling as ever that a man who never opted into public life can be made a mascot, even after the devastation beset on him is common knowledge. It’s another example of our appeasement for mob “justice” and our collective desire to play god with members of our own species when given the chance.

If we want to reconcile our own guilt for being distant passengers to the ruin of a man’s life, then so be it, but to demand anything of him for a nanosecond of his time is to perpetuate his treatment, not as a peer, but as a character to be killed and resurrected at our whim.

The unbridled sanctimony of celebrating the exoneration of a man who objectively did nothing wrong is shameful. Steve Bartman is not in need of forgiveness. I can’t imagine what he is in need of. I have no idea what justice, for him, looks like. I hope he was happy last night. I also completely understand if he didn’t watch a single play.


The Aus-dacity of Hope

by Duncan Clair (@duncanclair)

Hey guys,

It’s me, Duncs. I feel like now is a pretty safe time to talk about our Leafs feelings so I thought I’d share how I felt over the last couple years and why last night means so much.

It might not have been the day I became a Leafs fan, but it might have been the day that eventually led to the day I became a Leafs fan. I cheered for the Penguins then. Mario Lemieux was (is) my favourite player. I had the redesigned white Pens jersey with the triangular modern logo. I had asked about getting Mario’s name and number on the back. My dad joked we might be able to afford one ‘6’. The Penguins were visiting the Gardens to play the Leafs that night, sometime in 1992 or 93. It was a Saturday. I asked my mom if I could stay up to watch the whole game. Usually I was on the clock for bed sometime after the start of the second period. Mom was pretty firm on bedtime but that day she paused. “Oh…well yeah, maybe we can do that tonight,” she said. I was pumped. I went about my day and I was playing in my room when my parents walked in. I don’t remember who asked the question. “If you could be anywhere today where would you be?” I felt my eyes go wide and said “At the Leafs/Penguins game!” My parents produced two tickets, in the Golds, and my heart leapt. It was quite literally a dream come true. We made the short drive from Barrie to Toronto. My dad and I sat in the Golds and my mom sat way up in the greys. (It blows my mind – the idea of loving someone so much you’d spend money to sit next to strangers just to be across a really big room from someone.) I wore my Penguins jersey that night. A man joked I was wearing the wrong colours and I laughed with the fans around me. I was in my element. I belonged, and I was in awe the whole time. The Leafs won 4-2, but Mario scored, or maybe he set up Jagr. I’m not sure, but I remember Ken Wregget started for Pittsburgh and Felix Potvin for Toronto. I may have started that season as a Pens fan, but I finished it a Leafs fan, and the rest is history.

One of the biggest lies in popular fiction and movies and TV and all that is the ease at which characters are able to refer to a moment when things changed. I don’t know when it was. Maybe it was when I was slightly hungover on Bremner, walking to get groceries, and found out the Leafs lost to the Caps when they really needed a win, but I wasn’t expecting one. Maybe it was the second, or fourth, or fifth of six losses during a playoff “push.” It wasn’t quite when they lost to the Jets and sealed another year of mediocrity. I already knew it was over then. That game was just the confirmation. The Leafs had broken my heart. It’s not like it was new. It was a little different though. Even if I knew they weren’t that great, I wanted them to overachieve. They had done enough for long enough, to need only to hold on and couldn’t do it. It was hope dashed, yet again. It was harder to swallow. It changed how I felt.

There was so much anger and disappointment and frustration. I totally understand the need for media to generate narratives and I couldn’t have been more sick with how bad everything sounded. It was all crap. The play was garbage. The coaching was garbage. Nothing worked. Phil was mistreated more and more and SaluteGate was a thing and there was just no fucking reason to be anything but ashamed and it was awful.

Then some things started to change.

I was pleased with Brendan Shanahan and his initial philosophy. I was happy to see Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter hired. I watched Babs’s plane land and I was confounded and then satisfied after Lou came to town. I approved of the purging that occurred. I bought into the new regime. It felt different though, like I was a skittish puppy uncertain of affection. I was unsure about hope now. I kept it at arms length, and as much as I checked in on the new blood and the new systems, I kind of took last year off.

I won’t lie- it felt good. I didn’t worry about storylines, or game-to-game trends. I just knew these were the guys and things would get better. Nothing else really mattered. We have an all-world coach and a future that looked good, if a little uncertain. That was okay.

Then April 30 happened.

I was born on Canada Day, 1985, so this was very much a brand new thing for me – a first overall pick. I read all the articles and I’d watched him play in the World Juniors and the World Championship. I was pumped about Auston Matthews, but I don’t think anything would have made me believe tonight but to see it.

Tonight isn’t just special because of prophecies fulfilled or for a never before-seen feat of four goals in a player’s first game. Tonight is special because it makes that hope I forgot about feel tangible again. It solidifies the connection to something that is a common thread through the parts of my life I find most meaningful. It’s not just some stupid sports thing, or a distraction from real life. This is the thing that’s been the canvas on which I’ve drawn up real life feeling real again. It’s something special, and I don’t want it to go away. Thanks, Auston.

Standing Up for Sitting Down

By Duncan Clair (@duncanclair)

The controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick really blew up over the weekend as the quarterback – who is trying to claw his way back from the cusp of has-beenery – took a stand against the disproportionate amount of black Americans being killed by police by not standing during the Star Spangled Banner.

Then the takes came, and they were Hot. As. Fuck.

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